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How to Remodel Your Entire Kitchen for Under $5000

14 Feb

In 2003 my husband and I bought an old 1910 bungalow.  The house still had its original kitchen, which included counters that were four inches shorter than standard and cabinet doors that, when opened, hung crooked as their hinges strained to rip out of the cabinet boxes.  The subcounter under the laminate countertop was rotting, and three months before this picture was taken we had to replace the kitchen faucet when it very suddenly, and very surprisingly, simply fell over.  After buying a new faucet, we discovered that it did not fit on the sink (the base of the faucet was wider than the lip of the sink), so we found a free sink to replace the old one, only to discover the aforementioned rotting of the countertop (which made the installation of the new sink rather challenging).  In short, we knew that a complete kitchen overhaul was looming closely in our future.

The good news was that we had been planning on redoing our kitchen for some time, so in the preceding months we had been visiting building supply warehouses and collecting whatever supplies we thought might be useful.  We found a vintage double-drainboard sink for $25 at the ReBuilding Center, and for $300 we bought three huge slabs of cast-off granite from a stone supplier.  We had to haul the granite slabs home ourselves (with the help of two other people), but it was well worth it, considering the incredible deal we got.

This may sound obvious, but the most effective way to save money on a kitchen remodel—or any remodel, for that matter—is to commit to doing the work yourself.  Savvy purchasing habits are also important, but when you realize that you could easily shell out over $1000 just to have someone demo your small kitchen and haul away the debris, a personal dedication to hard work becomes a real asset.

We encountered an unexpected big break when we purchased ready-made cabinets from a cabinet warehouse.  We could never afford custom cabinetry, but once we meticulously measured our kitchen’s dimensions to the nearest centimeter and then scoured the cabinet warehouse for cabinets of the exact right size, we discovered that we could mix and match quite a few sizes of drawer and cabinet combinations to come up with a set up that would fit perfectly in our kitchen.  As an added bonus, since we were loading and unloading all of the cabinetry ourselves and wielding a tape measure with a certain level of authority, we apparently looked convincing enough in our paint-splattered and permanently worn-out clothing to warrant a professional builders discount.  For just under $3000 we bought brand new kitchen cabinetry with solid maple doors and high quality, full extension drawer slides.

I built a backsplash out of custom-cut lengths of copper sheeting that I ordered from a sheet metal manufacturer.  I adhered the copper sheets to plywood panels, then glued them to the wall using an industrial-strength adhesive.

Through friends we located a granite fabricator who was willing to cut and install our countertops for a few hundred dollars.  Since we already owned the granite slabs and had recently installed all of our new cabinetry, the fabricator was able to complete the job in record time: from the day he came over to measure the counters to the day he installed the granite, under two weeks had passed.

Through a combination of manufacturer discounts, annual store sales, and Energy Star refunds, we bought a dishwasher for 45% off the regular price.  In fact, we saved $80 by choosing to pick up the dishwasher ourselves and install it ourselves, and we’re no wizards when it comes to plumbing and electricity. Neither my husband nor I had even owned a dishwasher before, but spending 20 minutes with our new dishwasher’s instruction manual supplied us with all the installation information we would need.

For less than .75¢ a square foot, we found vinyl composition tiles that were durable, easy to install, and, aesthetically, a good fit for our house’s age and character.  Installing the tiles took only one day.

We kept our existing refrigerator, in no small part because it was the only fridge known to all of humankind that could fit in the small little fridge cubby wedged neatly under the stairs.  The stove was a wedding present from my parents, and I still often miss its built in griddle that could convert to a fifth burner.  We sold this house in 2006, and I’ve probably thought about that stove at least once a week ever since.

When you add in the cost of paint, cabinet hardware, and building supplies, the entire overhaul came in at just under $5000.  Additionally, because we weren’t waiting on a contractor to line up subs and make appointments, we completed the entire remodel ourselves in six weeks (with a break for Thanksgiving and a break for Christmas thrown in).  Not bad for two people armed with little more than basic power tools and a 25 year-old Toyota pick up truck.

What about you?  What’s your greatest do-it-yourself accomplishment, kitchen related or not?

Everything’s Relative

9 Feb

This article in the New York Times, lamenting the frequent lack of roominess and fanciness found in a professional chef’s at-home kitchen, can really drive home the point that one cook’s sad and meager kitchen can easily be another cook’s dream.

Is it the fancy appliances that make an enviable kitchen?  The stove that can be heated to 600 degrees to facilitate the crispest, most bubbly pizza crust ever known to a home cook?  Is it generous square footage?  Maybe you love to entertain while you cook, so you dream of a kitchen with room enough to accommodate one or two dozen roaming friends and family members who will keep you company in the kitchen while you prepare a feast fit for royalty.  Or perhaps it is this:

kitchen

A straight up, no holds barred showroom.  You can make three different cakes at once while you chop enough vegetables to make a vat of soup the size of a Navy ship, all while brewing gallons of fresh, hot coffee!

After living in four different houses in ten years, all of which possessed very different, very unique kitchens, I have finally come to realize what single element is most important to the creation of my dream kitchen: acres and acres of open counter space.

Our current kitchen, while sizable, boasts the least efficient layout of counter space I’ve ever seen. Counters are small and chopped off at strange angles, and there is a noticeable lack of workspace.  In order to create a space that was suitable for rolling out dough, chopping and prepping large quantities of food, and placing out more than one mixing bowl at a time, we bought a wooden work table at a kitchen supply warehouse.  The table is a great space for working, but the only place we were able to put it was at the end of the kitchen that is opposite the stove.  Not exactly the most efficient set up, but we make it work.  This house is the only house we’ve ever bought that came equipped with a remodeled kitchen, so it seems incredibly wasteful to tear out the kitchen and start over when everything in it is still new and shiny.  And it’s not as though the kitchen is unusable–far from it–it’s just not well designed.  We work with what we have, and appreciate the fact that the counters are not peeling up at the edges and all of our drawers are not painted shut (because we once bought a house with a kitchen that suffered from both of those maladies, as well as a vinyl floor that was melted in one patch by the stove, and an unfortunately robust colony of ants living beneath the floors).

The situation with our kitchen is not that different from the situation in which I often find myself when faced with a handful of ingredients that are not enough to complete a recipe, but not enough to discount either.  Such was the case when I found myself with three separate halves of pear (how, I am still not sure) and the last few squares of a Belgian chocolate bar.  What to do?  Make this cake, of course, courtesy of the always-reliable Smitten Kitchen, a kitchen that has less usable counter space than mine and seems to do just fine.

The cake was a beautiful thing, moist and rich with the nutty flavor of browned butter.  It did not suffer in the slightest from the halved quantities of chocolate and pear, proving that sometimes having less does not necessarily mean you will suffer wanting for more (cake and counter space alike).

 

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